The other day the husband and I had an errand to run and it turned out the meds wouldn’t be filled for another hour, so we decided to catch lunch, but nothing was quite open yet. Why not kill some time walking around? The sky is actually only partly cloudy and not raining for the first time in days, the husband is actually home for the weekend and it’s something we used to do way back in the nineties when we were first dating as poor college students.
There’s no park nearby, but that’s okay. We can lap the supermarket-shopping center once or twice while we talk and do something else totally weird – hold hands.
An older man (I think he’s Pilipino? Hard to say… lots of military retirees in our area…) approaches us, with his hands up to catch our attention. “Wait, wait. I have to tell you… I have to tell you… I’m sorry but I have to tell you…”
Of course, we immediately think somebody is going to hit us with a sob story bumming for change or trying some other tactic to sell something, but we stay polite and slow a bit. Maybe he’s legit and genuinely needs help?
“I just have to tell you that is so beautiful to see,” he says, pointing at our hands clasped together. He clasps his own together, mimicking the gesture. “You don’t see people doing that anymore. Everyone is just …” he breaks his hands apart and mimics texting or doing something else on a phone.
We smile and thank him and everyone goes about their way.
And I look around.
It isn’t an area conducive to strolling with your hand clasped in someone else’s, but he’s right. People get out of the car and the first thing they do is hold up their phone to check messages or text. People glance up from their phones as they walk to keep from bumping into trees or getting run down by a car, but they aren’t interested in holding the hand of a loved one or actually talking beyond grunts or this thing on facebook or twitter.
The only hands I see being held are the occasional parent trying to keep a younger child from getting run over. Half of those parents have the other hand and their eyes distracted by a phone. Or another child.
Not a lot of communication going on.
And it makes me wonder about writers and the stories we create. I’ll be honest – I’ve been a non-fiction devotee for a few years now, both in TV and books, but I like writing fictional stories, so I may be out of the loop on this, but whenever I pick up a fiction book and peruse the pages I see something very different than the reality at the park or the mall or wherever –
In the books, people talk to each other. Not just flap their yaps about meaningless shit (you’ve heard them, you know exactly what I’m talking about) or rant about BS, but actually talk, make a connection with each other using their words.
In the books, people touch each other. People hold hands in the park. They touch a shoulder, or a knee to emphasize a point or just to connect.
In books, people can survive a whole day without checking their facebook or twitter or what-have-you. Even in the SF books, people still talk face-to-face with each other without flipping out or going into withdrawal because they can’t use their tech toys.
I assume people like reading these books, otherwise, they wouldn’t sell. But it does beg the question:
Are people reading because they want to imagine what it feels like to talk to someone without the tech? Because they’ve forgotten what it’s like to hold someone’s hand?
Ah… perhaps not the best thoughts to open my children’s summer break with.